What will happen to Syracuse's retired Catholic churches?

Parishes that have closed include St. Mary Church on Route 173 in Jamesville, St. Peter Mission-Split Rock in the town of Onondaga, Our Lady of Solace on Salt Springs Road, Holy Trinity on Park Street, St. Andrew the Apostle on Alden Street, St. Peter Church on James Street and St. Stephen Church on North Geddes Street.

These parishes merged with nearby churches, saving costs, augmenting remaining congregations and lessening stress on serving presbyters. Another 12 parishes are slated to merge and five more are set to be linked, meaning both churches remain open and independent but will share one pastor, Lang said.

Death and taxes

In the wake of the closings, other troubles have surfaced.

According to public records, St. Mary Church in DeWitt is assessed at $288,900; St. Peter Mission-Split Rock, with its property of 4.48 acres, is assessed at $368,100; Holy Trinity is assessed at $1.8 million, which includes a school and rectory; and St. Stephen Church in Syracuse is assessed at $335,200.

The city of Syracuse has advised that buildings no longer being used for religious services will have to pay taxes. The churches have appealed but, to date, St. Peter Church and Our Lady of Solace have been denied a continuation of exemption status and have been placed on the city's assessment roll as taxable.

According to Onondaga County real estate records, St. Peter was purchased for $375,000 in May by Bible Studies Ministries, a nonprofit Christian organization that's affiliated with CNY Crossroads, a nondenominational Christian group. City assessor John Gamage said the new owner will have to file for exemption status next year.

Our Lady of Solace merged with St. Therese of the Little Flower on Lancaster Place in 2008. The property was purchased for $550,000 in January of this year by Hillside Children's Center, a nonprofit organization that works with city school students in danger of dropping out. The church is being used for conference, administrative and after school program space. Gamage recommended Our Lady of Solace Church be taxed, which was approved by the Board of Assessment Review. Hillside will have to pay more than $11,000 in taxes for 2010-11 but is suing the city over the matter.

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